It was a hot May in Sevastopol – even for that southern spot of Ukraine, this spring was unusually hot. No wonder she chose the rear table of the open cafe terrace, hiding herself from the blazing sun. The girl was writing something in her thin notepad with a pencil – or rather drawing, or sketching, judging by the jerky movements of her wrist. Time after time she closed the notepad, put the pencil on the black plastic cover, pondering something, then opened it again to continue drawing. As for her age, she was in her mid-twenties. As for the rest, she was blonde and she was – as Zoya Petrivna would put it, my employer and editor in the publishing house where I worked as a literary translator – just perfect!
How I would appreciate it when my translations were acknowledged, even incidentally, with such praise. But this time, it was just the one word from the whole great and mighty language of Shakespeare and Lennon. She was the rare beauty, and a moment later it occurred to me: now she will stand up and go away, and I will regret this day as my biggest failure. It had been a week since I turned thirty-five and the prospect of spending the rest of my life blaming myself loomed large. So I took my cup of coffee in one hand, pack of cigarettes in another and headed to her table.
“Hi!” I said, and took a seat opposite her, not waiting for an invitation. “I apologize for imposing myself on you. Sami my ne mestnyye…1 though I hadn’t missed the train, and even have my ticket back. My house… well, my dacha really burned a while back, but I already fixed everything. And I have no ill children urgently needing an operation… and healthy ones too. But still there is something I wanted to ask you…”
She raised her eyes to me, but then immediately shifted her gaze to her notepad:
“Please, go ahead,” she said.
“Marry me, will you?”
For a moment she looked at me intently:
“Okay,” she said, “I agree. But first talk to my mom.”
She briskly shut her notepad, slipped it into her purse, got up and headed out of the café. I pressed a ten gryvnas bill under a saucer and rushed after her. As I passed my chair, I grabbed my vest: Somewhere near, a dozen steps away, a car alarm was already beeping. The fender lamp of a brand new Volkswagen Golf gave me a mocking wink. She already had the handle of the car door in her hand, was opening it.
“Wait, wait a minute,” I said, “but where is your mom? You know, I have a pressing matter to discuss with her.”
“How should I know? She’s grown up already, and I don’t control her.”
My blonde sat behind the wheel and turned the ignition lock. The engine – now of all times – worked with a half turn. She lowered the window and waved to me.
(to be continued…)
1. “We (ourselves) are not locals” is a traditional approach adopted by con-artists, especially sham “refugees” in Russian-speaking counties (author’s note).
In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)
Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey
January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan
February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan
March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez
April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis
May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko
June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas
July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk
August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido
September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández
October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino
November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake
December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva
Background – Context
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
More work by Gennady Bondarenko
What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Kiev, Ukraine – At the cafe – Oskar Zhitnitsa (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed